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Trump campaign urges voters to 'support our troops' with picture of Russian MiGs

President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the G20 Japan Summit Friday, June 28, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In the days surrounding September 11, the Donald Trump campaign (specifically, the Orwellian-sounding Trump Make America Great Again Committee) released a digital advertisement imploring Americans to "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS." Clicking on it, obviously, would make it clear that by "supporting the troops," what the campaign really meant was "pay Donald Trump money." In the end, every Trump position boils down to "pay Donald Trump money."

Aside from the overt sleaziness of the pitch, Politico reports there's another curiosity about the ad. The "troops" pictured? They're Russians. And the planes dramatically flying overhead are Russian MiG-29s.

It's uncanny how often this keeps happening, but as usual it seems you can blame the Trump campaign's poor vetting of, well, everything for this particular insult. Politico was able to track down the creator of the original Shutterstock-based stock photo used by the campaign, and he's Arthur Zakirov, a 34-year-old "hobbyist" photographer who had spliced together the dramatic image from several of his previous photos, a "3D model of a MiG-29," and "Russian models" posed as soldiers. And yes, he finds Trump's use of the photo to be hilarious. “Today you hear about the Kremlin’s hand in U.S. politics. Tomorrow you are this hand," he told Politico.

Zakirov has good company. Previous Trump campaign ads have featured "actor portrayals" of Trump supporters that were in fact stock video clips filmed in France, Brazil, and Turkey.

Another Trump campaign ad, one released at nearly the same time as the MiG-29-based image, was called out earlier this month for illustrating the supposed economic devastation a Biden presidency would do with video of a Ukrainian wallpaper warehouse and a sad-faced computer user from Italy.

If there's a lesson to be had here, you might choose to believe the lesson is that all advertising is fake—a hoax by design. The narrower lesson, though, might be that the Trump campaign is singularly uninterested in even pretending they're not pulling one over on you. It's a message that comfortably matches with the candidate himself, and with his supporters; sure, Trump is ragingly dishonest, but at least he's in-your-face about it.

Go narrower still, however, and I think you can find the true takeaway message from all these flubs: Donald Trump is a cheap, cheap man. Everyone around him is cheap. Donald's not going to pay someone to go out with a smartphone and take pictures of real Trump supporters or real The Troops, so the campaign will use whatever pictures an intern can find quickest on Shutterstock and call it done. The ad was to "support our troops," but it never specifically said American troops to begin with.

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